Author Topic: New bike for a beginner  (Read 5142 times)

Toady

New bike for a beginner
« on: August 23, 2013, 11:03:59 am »
My wife has expressed an interest in cycling.  She's in her 50s, can ride a bike but has never owned one, not even as a kid, and needs to develop road skills and confidence.  She has very high fitness levels, but obviously not cycling specific.  My club does a beginners ride, for learning.  Now I'm thinking specifically about a bike. 

I'm guessing a flat bar hybrid is pretty much a given.  She also says she'd much prefer a step-through frame.

So I went to the web and picked out a couple of machines which seem remarkably cheap.  My question to you is:  are these entering dreadful BSO territory?

Take this one.  It's Dawes, a brand I have trusted for ages, has a 27"-95" gear range (or thereabouts), step through frame.  And it's only £200!  That price makes me think twice ... will this be a rubbish BSO?  OK it has no mudguards, but with V brakes etc there must be clearance, surely. 

That's just one example.  There seem to be quite a few in the £200-350 range like this.  Which seem bizarrely cheap

I don't want to encumber her with a sluggish machine that weighs a ton and put her off cycling, or buy a crappy thing that falls to bits.  But this isn't going to be subjected to hard every day commuting, and at that price what can go wrong?

Any comments on experiences of learning, and what bike is better for that purpose, or anything relevant?

On the other hand, I am planning to spend £1000+ on a bike for myself.  These prices aren't doing me any favours in justifying that.


Re: New bike for a beginner
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2013, 11:22:26 am »

I don't want to encumber her with a sluggish machine that weighs a ton and put her off cycling, or buy a crappy thing that falls to bits.  But this isn't going to be subjected to hard every day commuting, and at that price what can go wrong?


At that price you will get a bike that works and, as she has nothing to compare it with, is likely to serve the purpose.

As you know the more expensive bikes will give her better brakes, gears, less weight.

A couple of thoughts.

Invest in a GOOD saddle - not necessarily one you think is good, but a thick gel ladies saddle. This single thing will improve her experience. Think about a suspension seatpost.

Buy her cycling gloves with padding and shorts with a good liner

Think about adding bar ends, possibly ergo

Make sure that you are carrying the weight of any coats etc on your bike

IF she enjoys and gets used to riding the near BSO (they are better) then and only then will she appreciate the difference. That's where she will gain the appreciation of why you spend what you do.

Toady

Re: New bike for a beginner
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2013, 11:33:36 am »
Thanks for the reply.  Good points to think about.
Think about adding bar ends, possibly ergo
I've been thinking about this particular point.  My experience of flat barred bikes is limited, but I've found the sticky-forward bar end thingies to be a comfortable addition.  Also my wife was riding a borrowed MTB on holiday this year and I noticed she naturally used the bar ends.  But that may be because it wasn't adjusted to her size very well.

Can I fit those to pretty much any flat bar bike?  I'm guessing that they may not be an option if twist-grip shifters are getting in the way.

Kim

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Re: New bike for a beginner
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2013, 11:34:54 am »
Thing about cheap hybrids is weight, lack of features and low-end groupsets.

Weight isn't going to be a big deal, as anything significantly (ie. several kilos) lighter is going to be much less confidence-inspiring in its handling.  Lack of mudguards, racks, lighting, etc. depends on what she's going to be using it for.  I'd suggest that mudguards and not having to wear a rucksack are likely to enhance the enjoyment of the cycling experience.

Cheap groupsets are surprisingly bulletproof.  The gears won't be as slick as the proper stuff, and adjustment can sometimes be a pain, but they work.  She won't know any different.  The V-brakes will work surprisingly well, if properly adjusted.

The soft saddle thing is a valid point.  They do seem to be the way to go if you're never riding more than a couple of hours at a time.


Hubs, bottom brackets, headsets and the like will be cheap, but not BSO-quality.  They're likely to give years of service at casual cyclist rates, if not left out in the rain.  A decent set of tyres might be a worthwhile upgrade if punctures are a problem.
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Re: New bike for a beginner
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2013, 11:36:13 am »
The Dawes looks like reasonable value and I'm sure it'll do a job. Will be heavy though, which doesn't matter much if she's cycling on her own but can be a bit depressing if she can't keep up with a group on a climb. If it was me I'd be tempted to try some bikes from Evans to get the size/style worked out then buy a better one second hand for the same money.

New or used - buy better tyres. At that end of the market the tyres will be poor. If she can fix punctures buy some fast rolling tyres, if not then get some Marathon Plus.
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Re: New bike for a beginner
« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2013, 11:39:55 am »
Thanks for the reply.  Good points to think about.
Think about adding bar ends, possibly ergo
Can I fit those to pretty much any flat bar bike?  I'm guessing that they may not be an option if twist-grip shifters are getting in the way.

Twist-grip shifters won't interfere with fitting bar ends. Twist-grip grips don't run to the end of the bar, there's a regular bit of rubber outboard of the twisty bit.
Rust never sleeps

Re: New bike for a beginner
« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2013, 12:32:41 pm »
A few thoughts:

I have seen more than one novice put off cycling forever by a crap groupset. Figuring out how to find the right gear out of 20-odd is tricky enough without the bloody thing constantly mis-shifting. The situation would be somewhat ameliorated by your presence, but some very low-end bikes just cannot be persuaded to shift reliably. You can find hub-geared bikes for £300ish, which can make a massive difference for some riders - it's a simple system with a single shifter and you can change gear while stationary.

If she is genuinely fit, she might outgrow a cheap hybrid fairly quickly. A fit non-cyclist can very quickly turn into a fit cyclist, on the proviso that the ramp-up is gradual enough to allow the contact points to toughen up. I know runners who have switched to Duathlon, gone straight onto a full-on TT bike and become very quick cyclists within a matter of weeks; Muscular adaptation happens quite quickly if the underlying cardiovascular fitness is there.

Novice women tend to specify a step-through frame because they have the erroneous idea that a proper diamond frame is somehow difficult to mount and dismount, often because of memories of learning to ride a bike that was much too large and had no standover height. That belief can be quickly dispelled, simply by teaching the correct way to mount and dismount. A fit rider is likely to become frustrated with a step-through, because of the extra weight and lack of stiffness.

I'd suggest taking a few trips to different bike shops, to allow her to take a look at different types of bicycles and get a feel for things, and to allow you to check out the quality of the components. If she feels confident in doing so, a few test rides would be a really good idea. Novice cyclists tend to be very bad at predicting what kind of bike they'll actually enjoy riding - a lot of people who think they want a nice gentle sit-up-and-beg get fed up with the weight and end up on a racing bike; Conversely, a lot of people buy a racer and end up wanting something more relaxed and comfortable. There's no substitute for getting out there and handling a lot of different bikes in the metal.

As regards specific brands, I think Decathlon offer the best value by some margin. Their leisure and city bikes are very well specced for the price and tend to come with lots of very useful extras - mudguards, chaincases, pannier racks, kickstands, even dynamo lighting on many models. Their fast hybrids and road bikes are astonishing value, if you go down that route.

If she is at all apprehensive about going out on the roads, training is a really good idea. It can be a massive confidence boost to know that you've learned the right skills from a professional instructor. Many local authorities offer free or subsidised training.

Kim

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Re: New bike for a beginner
« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2013, 02:39:50 pm »
As regards specific brands, I think Decathlon offer the best value by some margin. Their leisure and city bikes are very well specced for the price and tend to come with lots of very useful extras - mudguards, chaincases, pannier racks, kickstands, even dynamo lighting on many models. Their fast hybrids and road bikes are astonishing value, if you go down that route.

+1

I don't think any of their stuff's bad value.  They build well-equipped cheap bikes and economise in the right places (typically by adding weight, rather than cheese).


The thing about outgrowing a cheap hybrid is that you still have a cheap hybrid.  Which means you've got something to ride when your good bike is being fixed, something more towpath-proof than your road bike, and something you don't mind leaving locked up for a while.

I agree about step-through frames, though some people have good reason for not being able to get a leg over, and they may be useful if commuting in business attire.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Re: New bike for a beginner
« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2013, 03:20:18 pm »
I think the above posts are a compendium of very good advice.

+1 for Decathlon. Everything I've seen of theirs, either owned by others or bought myself, is good value. You get what you pay for, but none of it is rubbish, even at the bottom end.

I think that it's better to err on the side of comfort & stability for a novice, rather than risk them being put off by twitchiness they struggle to handle, or a ride which is hard on the wrists & bum. I was recently on a ride where a person with no fitness problems but new (as an adult) to cycling crashed* on a steep downhill because the handling of her new lightweight drop-barred bike scared her. Ergo, a flat-barred hybrid is probably a good starting point, though as already said, better tyres could make a cheap one nicer to ride.


*Broken fork blade, sprained thumb, bruises & grazes. Was out again on Wednesday, on the back of a comfy, flat-barred, fat-saddled, tandem. Enjoyed it. :thumbsup:
"A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Type-Writer Girl, 1897

Cudzoziemiec

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Re: New bike for a beginner
« Reply #9 on: August 23, 2013, 03:34:12 pm »
Invest in a GOOD saddle - not necessarily one you think is good, but a thick gel ladies saddle. This single thing will improve her experience. Think about a suspension seatpost.

Buy her cycling gloves with padding and shorts with a good liner
A gel saddle and padded shorts? I'd say one or the other otherwise it'll be just too squidgy, especially for someone who's basically fit, and probably the saddle, cos special clothing makes it a special enterprise.
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Cudzoziemiec

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Re: New bike for a beginner
« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2013, 03:41:04 pm »
Take this one.  It's Dawes, a brand I have trusted for ages, has a 27"-95" gear range (or thereabouts), step through frame.  And it's only £200!  That price makes me think twice ... will this be a rubbish BSO?  OK it has no mudguards, but with V brakes etc there must be clearance, surely. 
Dawes are not the brand you remember from the 80s or whenever. I think they're part of the Falcon group, whoever owns them it'll be made in China and sold under different names in different parts of the world (or even the same part). But by the same token it'll be far better than a badge-engineered mass-produced in Britain cheapie from the 80s or whenever. I reckon.
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Biggsy

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Re: New bike for a beginner
« Reply #11 on: August 23, 2013, 04:31:35 pm »
Take this one.

That's better than a BSO, though the top tube looks too high for easy step-over.

I'd look at plenty of other makes as well.  My mum has a Dawes City Vision 7, which is excellent but was bought some years ago.  Dawes aren't as good in this area as they used to be in terms of designs and choice for this sort of thing, though I would still trust the quality of manufacture.  (Not being made in Britain any more doesn't mean Dawes has lost control of the quality).

Weight is not a terribly big issue for a non sporty rider when the bike is comfortable and the gears low enough.  I think you should focus on ergonomics and gears.
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Toady

Re: New bike for a beginner
« Reply #12 on: September 07, 2013, 11:40:01 pm »
Gone for a Specialized Vita step thru in the end.